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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature


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Matth´ew. According to , Matthew was a son of Alphaeus. It is generally supposed that Jacobus, or James, the son of Alphaeus, was a son of Mary, the wife of Cleophas, who was a sister of the mother of Jesus (). If this opinion is correct, Matthew was one of the relations of Jesus. Matthew was a portitor, or inferior collector of customs at Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee. He was not a publicanus, or general farmer of customs. We may suppose either that he held his appointment at the port of Capernaum, or that he collected the customs on the high road to Damascus, which went through what is now called Khan Minyeh, which place, as Robinson has shown, is the ancient Capernaum. Thus we see that Matthew belonged to the lower class of people.

In , and , he is called Levi. We hence conclude that he had two names. This circumstance is not mentioned in the list of the apostles (Matthew 10 and Luke 6); but the omission does not prove the contrary, as we may infer from the fact that Lebbæus is also called Judas in , in which verse the name Lebbæus is omitted. In is related how Matthew was called to be an apostle. We must, however, suppose that he was previously acquainted with Jesus, since we read in , that when Jesus, before delivering the Sermon on the Mount, selected twelve disciples, who were to form the circle of his more intimate associates, Matthew was one of them. After this Matthew returned to his usual occupation; from which Jesus on leaving Capernaum, called him away. On this occasion Matthew gave a parting entertainment to his friends. After this event he is mentioned only in .

According to a statement in Clemens Alexandrinus, Matthew abstained from animal food. Hence some writers have rather hastily concluded that he belonged to the sect of the Essenes. It is true that the Essenes practiced abstinence in a high degree; but it is not true that they rejected animal food altogether. Admitting the account in Clemens Alexandrinus to be correct, it proves only a certain ascetic strictness, of which there occur vestiges in the habits of other Jews.

According to another account, which is as old as the first century, Matthew, after the death of Jesus, remained about fifteen years in Jerusalem. This agrees with the statement in Eusebius (Hist. Eccles. iii. 24), that Matthew preached to his own nation before he went to foreign countries. Rufinus (Hist. Eccles. x. 9) and Socrates (Hist. Eccles. i. 19) state that he afterwards went into Ethiopia; and other authors mention other countries. There also he probably preached specially to the Jews. According to Heracleon (about A.D. 150) and Clemens Alex. (Strom. iv. 9), Matthew was one of those apostles who did not suffer martyrdom.

The Gospel of St. Matthew

The genuineness of this Gospel has been more strongly attacked than that of any of the three others, as well by external as by internal arguments. With regard to the former, external testimonies are clearly in favor of the genuineness of this Gospel. Its authenticity, indeed, is as well supported as that of any work of classical antiquity. It can also be proved that it was early in use among Christians, and that the Apostolic Fathers at the end of the first century ascribed to it a canonical authority.

A good deal of discussion respecting the question—whether or not there was a Hebrew Gospel of St. Matthew, has arisen out of a statement made by Papias, that 'Matthew wrote the sayings in the Hebrew tongue.' Tholuck, who inclines to the opinion that the original Gospel of St. Matthew was written in Hebrew, thinks it by no means improbable that, after several inaccurate and imperfect translations of this original came into circulation, Matthew himself was prompted by this circumstance to publish a Greek translation, or to have his Gospel translated under his own supervision.

With regard to the internal arguments which have been brought against the authenticity of this Gospel, it has been objected, 1st, that the representations of Matthew have not that vivid clearness which characterizes the narration of an eyewitness, and which we find, for instance, in the Gospel of John. Even Mark and Luke surpass Matthew in this respect. Compare, for example, with sq.; sq. with , sq. This is most striking in the history of his own call, where we should expect a clearer representation.

2nd. He omits some facts which every apostle certainly knew. For instance, he mentions only one journey of Christ to the Passover at Jerusalem, namely, the last; and seems to be acquainted only with one sphere of Christ's activity, namely, Galilee.

3rd. He relates unchronologically, and transposes events to times in which they did not happen; for instance, the event mentioned in must have happened at the commencement of Christ's public career, but Matthew relates it as late as , sq.

4th. He embodies in one discourse several sayings of Christ which, according to Luke, were pronounced at different times (comp. Matthew 5; Matthew 7; Matthew , 23).

To these objections we may reply as follows:—

1st. The gift of narrating luminously is a personal qualification of which even an apostle might be destitute, and which is rarely found among the lower orders of people: this argument therefore has recently been given up altogether. In the history of his call to be an apostle, Matthew has this advantage over Mark and Luke, that he relates the discourse of Christ () with greater completeness than these evangelists. Luke relates that Matthew prepared a great banquet in his house, while Matthew simply mentions that an entertainment took place, because the apostle could not well write that he himself prepared a great banquet.

2nd. An argumentum a silentio must not be urged against the evangelists. The raising of Lazarus is narrated only by John; and the raising of the youth at Nain only by Luke; the appearance to five hundred brethren after the resurrection, which, according to the testimony of Paul (), was a fact generally known, is not recorded by any of the evangelists. The apparent restriction of Christ's sphere of activity to Galilee we find also in Mark and Luke. This peculiarity arose perhaps from the circumstance that the apostles first taught in Jerusalem, where it was unnecessary to relate what had happened there, but where the events which had taken place in Galilee were unknown, and required to be narrated: thus the sphere of narration may have gradually become fixed.

3rd. There is no reason to suppose that the Evangelists intended to write a chronological biography. On the contrary, we learn from , and , that their object was of a more practical and apologetical tendency. With the exception of John, the Evangelists have grouped their communications more according to the subjects than according to chronological succession. This fact is now generally admitted. The principal groups of facts recorded by St. Matthew are:—1. The preparation of Jesus, narrated in to . 2. The public ministry of Jesus, narrated in to . 3. The conclusion of the life of Jesus, narrated in to .

But our opponents further assert that the Evangelist not only groups together events belonging to different times, but that some of his dates are incorrect: for instance, the date in cannot be correct if Luke 4, has placed the event rightly. If, however, we carefully consider the matter, we shall find that Matthew has placed this fact more chronologically than Luke. It is true that the question in , and the annunciation in , seem to synchronize best with the first public appearance of Jesus. But even Schleiermacher, who, in his work on Luke, generally gives the preference to the arrangement of that evangelist, nevertheless observes (p. 63) that leads us to suppose that Jesus abode for a longer period in Capernaum (comp. the words 'as his custom was' in ).

4th. If the evangelist arranges his statements according to subjects, and not chronologically, we must not be surprised that he connects similar sayings of Christ, inserting them in the longer discourses after analogous topics had been mentioned. These discourses are not compiled by the Evangelist, but always form the fundamental framework to which sometimes analogous subjects are attached. But even this is not the case in the Sermon on the Mount; and in Mathew 13, it may be doubted whether the parables were spoken at different times. In the discourses recorded in Mathew 10 and Mathew 23, it can be proved that several sayings are more correctly placed by Matthew than by Luke (comp. especially with ).

These arguments may be supported by adding the positive internal proofs which exist in favor of the apostolical origin of this Gospel. 1. The nature of the book agrees entirely with the statements of the Fathers of the church, from whom we learn that it was written for Jewish readers. None of the other Evangelists quote the Old Testament so often as Matthew, who, moreover, does not explain the Jewish rites and expressions, which are explained by Mark and John 2. If there is a want of precision in the narration of facts, there is, on the other hand, a peculiar accuracy and richness in the reports given of the discourses of Jesus; so that we may easily conceive why Papias styled the Gospel of Matthew, the sayings of the Lord.

Some of the most beautiful and most important sayings of our Lord, the historical credibility of which no skeptic can attack, have been preserved by Matthew alone (;;; comp. also 11:2-21; 12:3-6, 25-29; 17:12, 25-26; 26:13). Above all, the Sermon on the Mount must here be considered, which is given by Matthew, and which forms the most beautiful and the best arranged whole of all the evangelical discourses.

With regard to the date of this gospel, Clemens Alexandrinus and Origen state that it was written before the others. Irenaeus agrees with them, but places its origin rather late—namely, at the time when Peter and Paul were at Rome. Even De Wette grants that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. In proof of this we may also quote .





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Matthew'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature".

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